By Monica Feid
The minute Mary Thompson – CFE, COO of Neighborly®, accepted my invitation to be the keynote speaker for the BizCom Associates annual agency retreat, I knew our team was in for a treat. When someone routinely describes her organization as helping thousands of people reach their hopes, wishes, dreams and goals, you can bet she has great lessons to share.
We’ve been buzzing ever since about her topic: “Whistling in the dark: leading through change, disruption and opportunity.” [I’ve previously discussed how the “The Pandemic is Over. Leadership Lessons are Not.” Lo and behold, Mary and Neighborly provided another fantastic chapter!]
During the global pandemic, as other businesses went into lockdown, Neighborly was busier than ever. Immediately, our homes also became our schools, offices and gyms as the world sheltered in place. We stressed those structures to the limit creating a scary time for service professionals experiencing historic demand under the cloud of a mysterious virus.
How did Mary lead franchisees into the unknown in the midst of so much fear? She showed us a Chinese symbol that simultaneously stands for “Danger” and “Opportunity” and explained that we can’t expect greatness by only doing what is comfortable and easy. Real success comes from challenging ourselves, getting uncomfortable and even tackling dangerous things.
That’s when her training as a Marine took hold and her father reminded her that, just like in the military, she already knew what to do. [Mary served eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps as a logistics officer.] When you lead a platoon on an important mission, it doesn’t mean you know the outcome. You whistle in the dark. You are the steady voice others hear and follow even in unsteady times. You invite them to come along as you build trust. Together, you are stronger. The end result is that great leaders can inspire great teams into action.
Not surprisingly, Neighborly and its great leaders and teams are on track to exceed $4B in system-wide sales this year. A clear Code of Values continues to permeate across 5,000+ franchise locations and the sky is the limit to keep growing.
Here are three additional leadership lessons from the 2023 BizCom Annual Retreat that deserve the spotlight:
Good leadership has nothing to do with a job title.
Anyone can be a leader. It has very little to do with a job title and everything to do with stepping up. Rising to the occasion is what sets the doers apart. It’s also the foundation for building great teams.
This perfectly fits our growing staff at BizCom and what I consider to be a work-family full of leaders. Nobody retains our agency to get the attention of one glorified account executive. We provide an entire team across client relations, media relations, digital and design divisions who bring their very best individual skills to the table. Indeed, it builds responsibility across our entire agency and the collective results show.
Good leadership isn’t about multi-tasking.
This term is like a badge of honor. It’s also a key driver to high stress, rapid burnout and poor mental health. Why? Because multi-tasking can’t be done. Mary is right. When we cannot focus on one thing to the very best of our abilities before moving onto the next, we perpetuate mediocre results.
Try giving one task at a time the attention it deserves instead of carrying the weight of the world. There are plenty of tools to get there too. According to Mary, nobody should be afraid to say these three words: “I need help.” Bravo.
Good leadership is not about perfection.
There’s a difference between striving for excellence and striving for perfection. There is no such thing as perfection. Neighborly is constantly raising the bar looking for ways to get better, not perfect. It didn’t become the world’s largest home services organization by staying put and calling it a day.
When we decided to raise the bar and go beyond PR at BizCom, we were striving for excellence too. We evolved to include BizComPR, Digital BizCom, BizCom Press and BizCom Design. We got out of our comfort zone and thank goodness we did. BizCom tripled in size. Our services grew, our roster grew, and our brain trust grew. Today as we prepare to welcome our 25th anniversary, we are better positioned to serve our clients on the road ahead. Meanwhile, we will keep on looking for ways to, as Mary puts it, be bold and embrace some important whistling.
If you would like to hear an excellent talk from Mary about leadership, business growth, best practices and embracing change, I invite you to watch her episode on the Home Services Summit with Scott Abbott: HERE.
[NOTE: Neighborly is a BizCom Associates client across all agency services.]